Southern Daily Echo
DIRECTORS Ben Occhipinti and Mark Powell used anecdotes from 140 pages of interviews with past and present cast-members to create a rich tapestry of what makes amateur dramatics companies tick.
Skilfully knitting dialogue together with well selected show-tunes, the appreciative audience were given an insight into am-dram as an alternative to hum-drum. Including few well-known Broadway and West End songs, the lesser-known ones ensured that the words carried more weight as a consequence.
In true Hollywood-style, flu ridden off-stage chaos necessitated that cast members be promoted from chorus to lead. Natasha George epitomised this with a last-minute stand-in performance to savour.
With lead vocals generously shared around, the programme picked-out only several soloists, but Dave Simmons, Dave Coxon, Alison Child and Laura Simmons were just a few major talents amongst equals.
The intimate performance space was used effectively, in front of a giant make-up ‘mirror’, with Liz Weager’s four-piece orchestra note-perfect throughout. Loved it!
Salisbury JournalJill Harding
A Charming Musical
THE highs and lows of life with an amateur musical theatre group are poignantly brought to the stage with Musical Theatre Salisbury’s compelling new show This Is My Song.
Its creators Mark Powell and Ben Occhipinti spent hours interviewing members, past and present, about the tension, excitement and sheer pleasure that comes from joining an “am dram” group, including auditioning, rehearsing and performing in front of an audience.
These enlightening anecdotes – that will be achingly familiar to anyone who has ever been tempted to tread the boards – have been blended with songs from famous shows and several less well known numbers that really capture the unique life experience being part of amateur theatre can bring.
This talented cast of 20 tell us of finding love, overcoming illness, making new friendships and tackling personal demons throughout this musical review. And the result is a truly charming and heartfelt production.
Although not a criticism I would particularly level at MTS, some amateur dramatic productions become bogged down by performers earnestly “pretending” to be something they are not.
With about half the musical numbers involving the whole cast, and everyone having plenty to say, this is a true ensemble show.
However, in the spirit of all amateur musical theatre, there will always be a star and in this show that role is filled by the talented Laura Simmons. Her performance of Just a Housewife had spine-tingling sentiment but she shone in each number she was in.
Many young members of the cast also showed great promise for the future of this society which has its fair share of stalwarts who must be praised for their commitment and sense of fun.
Well known songs like Maybe This Time, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat and Applause got the audience toe-tapping along but there were also several songs that would have been new to all but the most die-hard of musical theatre fans.
More movement and dance in the second half – including a nice tap routine – gave us more to look at after the interval but most pieces were well choreographed and the show moved along at a brisk pace.
The cast’s true love of what they do, and the special camaraderie that comes from the culmination of months of rehearsal and performing a live show, really shines through in This is My Song. And that spills off the stage into the auditorium, meaning the audience can share in and enjoy Britain’s love of amateur musical theatre.
Specially written for MTS, This Is My Song is a revue which looks at what it is like to be an amateur performer with MTS. What attracts someone to join? How do they feel about the audition process, the performance, the social side, the ups and downs? And there is even a mention of falling in love.
The script was devised from actual words of the stories that company members, past and present, gave at interviews and through an anonymous questionnaire.
Put together with a selection of songs to cover a
journey from the start of rehearsals and auditions through to
the end of the run of a show.
Performed in the round, by an ensemble of 21 members, there was no star in this production, all were of equal standing. It was like a showcase of all the talent that MTS has. The Salberg is very intimate venue and it was a pleasure to be able to hear each and every single voice without the use of microphones.
The small band of, piano, drums, violin and a bass/horn player, was very effective and never once overpowered the performers.
The end result was excellent; a superb piece of musical theatre.
It is over thirty years since I was persuaded to join a similar company and I could relate to every word of the script, and many times I laughed on my own, as long forgotten memories returned.